Today began with index cards. Here at SeeThrough, we love index cards – whenever we hit a point where the world around us appears to be descending into chaos, Paul throws a stack of various coloured cards on the table, and we start breaking down our tasks, and writing them with big fat card.
This time, it went a bit like this:
Paul: We’re nearly half-way through our time, we need to plan stuff carefully and come up with milestones and stuff.
Paul: Everyone write down every task that still has to be done in their area. Green cards are art, blue is audio, yellow is programming and white is everything else.
(people start writing)
Paul: No, one task per card!
Us: Oh, okay.
Paul: That’s still more than one task, break it down more!
It was kind of like that, only with Paul behaving slightly less like a dictator.
So at the end we had a pile of cards with things like “Attack AI”, or Dialogue recording” or “Blood effects” on them. Then we took the pink cards, and worked out what our milestones for the project were. “Finished game” is the obvious one, and also “First playtest”, since we’re planning on getting playtesting done ASAP. We felt we needed at least one more milestone, and a little um-ing and ah-ing led us to “Art and sound prototype”, which will be a test run of the aesthetic aspects of the game, falling after first playtesting, but before release.
Now we sorted the task cards into piles by the milestone they are needed for (with a fourth pile for optional features that would be “Nice to have”, and a fifth for “Ongoing tasks”). Then we tried to estimate how long each would take. To do this, one person responsible would write an estimated number on the back of the card, then another team member (usually Paul) would write their own estimate on the front. The two numbers would be compared, then any discrepancies would then be discussed, and a final figure settled on. Mostly, we guessed pretty close. A few times, there were big gaps in expectations.
Lastly, we looked at the tasks for the first milestone (“First playtest”), and worked out an order and schedule for completing them. The idea was to reach this milestone by the end of today. We didn’t do a whole lot of planning for the later stages, although Angus wanted to clear up some things about our recording schedule, as we only have limited access to Jordan’s recording studio (which is going to create some gnarly problems, but that’s another post!).
Once we had the cards sorted out, we went about our respective tasks – script-writing, programming level-building, music – with much more focus than we’d have had without those beautiful cards.